Shoes get a pretty bad rap as far as ethics go. They normally use a lot of non-renewable materials, and we won’t even get into the labor issues. But don’t worry, there are a few socially- and eco-conscious shoes out there so that you can drastically reduce your family’s footprint (see what I did there?)
In order to find the right eco-friendly shoes, you must first look at the rubber. If it’s made of natural rubber latex or, better yet, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, you know your shoes are made in accordance to the highest environmental standards on the planet. In addition, look for shoes made from natural fiber like hemp or cotton, and make sure they are sewn, not glued.
Here are 5 great shoe companies that make kicks you can slap on your kids’ feet with the confidence that your choice will lead to a better planet for them and their children.
Every Sole Rebels shoe is hand cut, hand dyed, and hand sewn using hand-loomed fabric. The soles are made of recycled tires. The company’s slogan is “WALK NAKED,” which is befitting if its comfy natural components. It also happens to be the only certified fair trade shoe company on the planet. And they’re not even the most expensive shoes on the list! And fringes! (Don’t worry, there are great boys’ styles too.)
All of the classic-looking ethletic styles are made using certified organic cotton and Forest Stewardship Council certified natural rubber. Their employees are treated fairly, all the way down to the plantations that grow the materials. They’re also vegan, which means they don’t use oils, fats or glues derived from animals.
This company, owned by the same people as the now (sadly) defunct Simple brand tennis shoes, makes their shoes out of recycled rubber insoles, jute, hemp, cork, natural latex, recycled plastic bottles, and recyclable TPE.
My Sanuk sandals are made out of recycled yoga mats, which makes them the squishiest, longest lasting, and most comfortable pair of flip-flops I have ever owned.
Soft Star Shoes
This Corvallis, Oregon shoe company does everything they possibly can to keep your feet healthy while being active using all natural components. Their shoes are made with formaldehyde-free leather dyed with FDA-approved food-grade dyes. The soles are made from natural rubber, suede, or very tough leather. Their shop is even run on solar and wind energy.
They’re so awesome, in fact, that they’ll even custom make your shoes for an extra fee. They’re a little on the pricey side, but your dollars go pretty far toward saving the planet with these guys.
I was going to avoid putting Tom’s on this list because chances are you’ve already heard of them. But when I saw this pair, I just could not resist.
Tom’s is a company that made itself famous by using a “one for one” business model. For every pair of shoes purchased, Tom’s donates a pair to someone in need. In some cases, they partner with a charity to donate proceeds to a good cause, like the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project. Charlize Theron designed these poppy-colored lookers using her organization’s logo and the NGO’s motto: Reach Out, Think Beyond, and Look Within.”
Tom’s has also partnered with other organizations with shoes like the vegan “shark” slip-on, which benefits the R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program.
As far as sustainability goes, Toms are made using natural hemp, organic cotton, and/or recycled polyester. All shoe boxes are made from 80% recycled post consumer waste printed with soy ink.
With eco-friendly shoes, your family can talk the talk and walk the walk.